Adagio CEO resigns with no explanation, and the biotech plans COVID-19 antibody analysis this quarter

Adagio Therapeutics, attempting to bring COVID-19 treatments to market after raising a massive haul of capital during the pandemic, will have to go soul searching as its CEO is out the door with no explanation. 

The official phrasing was quite ominous: Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., "agreed in principle to resign," the company said on Friday. Gerngross officially told the board last Monday of his intentions to retire, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that offered no details to clarify the mysterious language.

Now leading the charge is Chief Operating Officer David Hering, who was previously head of Pfizer’s mRNA global franchise, responsible for helping launch its COVID-19 vaccine as president of North America. 

Quickly following Gerngross' murky exit, Adagio released a statement Tuesday clarifying the steps ahead for its COVID-19 monoclonal antibody, dubbed ADG20, which is being investigated for both preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2. The antibody entered a phase 2/3 trial in May 2021, and the goal was to commercialize the treatment this year.

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"The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for new variants support Adagio’s ongoing work to bring forward new prevention and treatment options," the company said in a statement. The Waltham, Massachusetts biotech is exploring several options for potential emergency use authorization submissions. 

Before March 31, Adagio plans to analyze the clinical data from the global phase 2/3 trials of ADG20 for prevention and treatment of COVID-19, known as Evade and Stamp, respectively. Data from those trials, testing ADG20 at 300mg, will "inform next steps for ADG20," the company said. 

But there could be a major hurdle in Adagio getting ADG20 to market: The monoclonal antibody has "markedly reduced neutralization activity" against the Omicron variant—now the predominant strain worldwide—according to in vitro assay data. 

The company is working to modify the therapeutic to improve its binding to the variant, Adagio said. The biotech is also going to test higher doses in a phase 1 study to supplement data from the existing 300mg dose. 

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Adagio will also dig into its library to see if there are other monoclonal antibodies it can develop as either solo treatments or combination therapies, the company said in its Tuesday update.

The news comes after a whirlwind 2021 in which Adagio courted investors for hordes of cash, including a $336 million series C in April and a $309 million Wall Street debut in August. The biotech priced at the bottom of its range, at $17, but Adagio's shares have cratered since its IPO, sinking to $6.53 apiece as of Monday morning.